It's time once again to don your hats, boots, and bolo ties and dive into a delicious combination of music, artery-clogging cuisine and unparalleled athleticism, all with a healthy dash of education and philanthropy, because the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is back in town, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever before.
RECURRING THROUGHOUT THE RODEO
(February 27-March 23 unless otherwise noted)
This carnival brings great exhibits and rides that families love to experience again and again, including La Grande Ferris wheel, carousels, roller coasters and the Sky Ride gondola. Tasty food of an unhealthy and often fried nature will be offered in abundance, and games that can confound or please will be waiting for someone to step up with tickets. The carnival has shorter hours for the first few days of the Rodeo and will be open from 6 to 11 p.m. on February 27, 4 to 11 p.m. on February 28, noon to 11 p.m. on March 1, and 1 p.m. to midnight every weekday thereafter. On weekends, the Carnival is open from 10 a.m. to midnight.
An educational place for anyone who wants to learn more about the flora and fauna that go into making the Rodeo what it is, this large and lively exhibit can be found in Reliant Center Hall A. Visitors can see and learn about livestock; farm animals both full-size and miniature; bees busily buzzing about; and all manner of machinery and workmanship found on a farm, including a new exhibit on rainwater harvesting and an overview of the different climate regions of Texas. Entry is free to all exhibits. This event is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Champion Wine Garden
An enduring fixture of the fair, this garden is located on Carruth Plaza and open from afternoon or early evening until 11 p.m. It has singular landscaping guaranteed to draw the eyes of weary passersby and is sure to offer a moment of comfort and fine wine to anyone who enters. Drink tickets for wines from this year's Champion Wine competition will be available for purchase for a taste, a glass or a bottle. The garden also hosts live musical performances and twice-daily seminars at which wine-tasting veterans and novices alike can learn more about wine and how to appreciate it. The seminars will cover different topics every day, but tickets are required to participate, so be sure to plan ahead.
The Hideout is a special little musical corner of the grounds meant for country and western lovers age 21 and over. Opening at 6 p.m., this tent will be home to plenty of performers with a bent for the simple life.
A kid-friendly section of the Rodeo set aside for the smaller cowboys and cowgirls, this pint-size carnival includes events such as the Kids Pedal Tractor Pull, Mutton Bustin' and Pig Races. It will also have certain staples, including a petting zoo; an old-fashioned carousel; pony rides; camel rides; a zip line for kids who want a high-flying view of the fair; the educational "fun on the farm" exhibit, in which kids can help out with farm chores and observe goats in their daily lives on Goat Mountain; and a stage devoted to entertainment that will host the amateur singing contest called Rodeo Rockstar as well as up-and-coming Houston-area stars. Kids Country closes an hour earlier than the rest of the Rodeo attractions.
Kids Pedal Tractor Pull
Part of Kids Country, this event is open to children ages four to 12 and gives them the opportunity to participate in a pedal-powered tractor pull. It takes place several times a day, weekdays and weekends alike.
This fluffy little event gives groups of five- and six-year-olds the opportunity to try their hand at braving the bucking of a bouncing sheep for the interminable period of eight seconds. As a safer and cuter alternative to the adult version, it will be available every hour to all who swing by Kids Country during the day and every night to those who come for the Rodeo itself. To be eligible to participate, children must not weigh more than 55 pounds; each ride costs $15.
Watch tiny piglets with punny names compete against each other in full racing colors, as well as an aquatic performance by an especially talented pig. The races are staged in Kids Country and take place all day, every day on an hourly basis from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
March 11 and 18
Kids and young adults hoping to launch a career in music have entered this amateur singing competition for a chance to perform on the Statoil Stars Over Texas Stage. The junior event will include children from ages six to 15, and the youth event will include hopefuls from ages 16 to 21. The preliminary competition takes place on March 11, and the finals will take place on March 18, with the younger group appearing at 5 p.m. and the older group following them at 6 p.m.
Visit the Reliant Center Lobby for a chance to learn about how the Rodeo has grown and changed since its creation in 1932, from where it's been staged and the types of livestock it has shown to its transformation from an event promoting the cattle industry into a massive volunteer operation benefiting all of Texas.
RELIANT ARENA EVENTS
National Cutting Horse Association Cutting
February 27-March 6
The NCHA will be holding competitions for youth, novices, amateurs and professionals every morning starting at 8 a.m. featuring prizes that go as high as $50,000. Stop by for a demonstration of true cowboy skill as a horse and rider take on a whole herd.
Team Penning and Ranch Sorting
If you're a morning person, this 7 a.m. event is perfect for you, particularly if you enjoy watching a team of people herd cattle.
Paint Horse Show
March 12-14, 17 and 18
These artistic-looking horses will be strutting their stuff at 8 a.m. in five different events, which will include exhibitions of roping, speed, English form, halter and showmanship, and Western.
Quarter Horse Show
Organized by the American Quarter Horse Association, this event allows quarter horses of all kinds to compete in events that test speed, teamwork and skill. Each segment kicks off at 8 a.m.
Donkey and Mule Shows
At 7 a.m. on these two days, donkeys and mules will strut their stuff in obstacle-driving contests, snigging (the dragging of a log), mule pulling and competing in a widest-ear-span contest.
All Breed Youth Horse Show
This event allows individuals 18 years and under to compete in halter, showmanship, and Western and English performance for a chance to win prizes that range from saddle pads and saddles to belt buckles and savings bonds. The age divisions are from five to nine, 13 and under, and from 14 to 18. The first event takes place at 3 p.m., and the other two events are at 8 a.m.
Llama and Alpaca Shows
On these four days, visitors can drop in on a number of events dealing with llamas and alpacas, including costume contests and halter, speed, and showmanship events. Shows take place at various times during the day.
Versatility Ranch Horse
World Championship Show
A world championship event run by the American Quarter Horse Association that showcases the various talents of the ranch horse, among them trail riding, cutting and conformation. It will be held in separate segments starting at 8a.m., in the afternoon or at 7:30 p.m., depending on the day.
Cowboy Mounted Shooting
A two-day event run by the American Quarter Horse Association, this fast-paced competition allows men and women to display a most invaluable skill: the ability to shoot down balloons with blank-loaded .45 caliber pistols while riding around on a horse at top speed.
RELIANT CENTER EVENTS
Goats, cattle, sheep and student artwork all hang out in or on the walls of the various halls of Reliant Center for visitors' perusal. If you'd like to see who wins, or just enjoy admiring the work of talented folk young and old, this is the place to be at any time during the Rodeo's run.
RELIANT STADIUM EVENTS
RodeoHouston BP Super Series
Starting at 3:45 p.m. on weekends and 6:45 p.m. on weekdays, this is the main event. Each day will bring another round and another chance for competitors to win money and recognition. The Super Series comes to its final crescendo with the championship on Sunday, March 23.
Super Shootout: North America's Champions
This event is a one-day rodeo, separate from the Super Series, that includes the champions from eight different rodeos in the United States and Canada competing in one final showdown. Athletes will face off in bareback bronc riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and — new this year — steer wrestling, for a whopping total purse of $250,000. The event begins at 3:45 p.m. and will be followed by a concert featuring The Zac Brown Band.
Country fans will be happy to see the iconic songstress Reba McEntire back on the RodeoHouston® stage again this year, along with the usual lineup of The Band Perry, The Zac Brown Band and Jason Aldean. For those with a different musical bent, Maroon 5 is bringing its soulful brand of pop rock, REO Speedwagon is delivering the '80s, and Robin Thicke will be busting out his chart-topping notoriety.
Here's the lineup:
March 4: Brad Paisley
March 5: Eli Young Band
March 6: Reba McEntire
March 7: Usher
March 8: Chris Young
March 9: Selena Gomez
March 10: REO Speedwagon
March 11: Jason Aldean
March 12: Jake Owen
March 13: Maroon 5
March 14: Keith Urban
March 15: Hunter Hayes
March 16: Pesado and Banda MS
March 17: Luke Bryan
March 18: Robin Thicke
March 19: Florida Georgia Line
March 20: Blake Shelton
March 21: Easton Corbin
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March 22: The Band Perry
March 23: The Zac Brown Band
Monday through Friday performances: RodeoHouston® start time is 6:45 p.m., with the performers typically taking the stage between 9and 9:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday performances: RodeoHouston® start time is 3:45 p.m.; performers typically take the stage between 5:45 and 6:15p.m.